Saturday, February 18, 2012

First Night-- Writing on Music

Writing about music, to analyze and articulate the non-verbal expression of human spirit has fascinated me for a long time. The ability to write, to create virtual concept out of nothing is the ability to create, reproduce and define one's depth of appreciation in life. 
Despite the disappointment and struggle in real life, there is a space of freedom and ecstasy, which created by the brilliant mind of our ancestors, waiting for us to explore and rest our spirit in the pure, relaxed, and beautiful reflections of our physical existence. 

Yesterday, while I am searching for complementary material for academic writing guide, I came across this wonderful resources form Harvard Writing Centre. It contains clear instruction on how to write about music, both in an academic maner of in an pop music review kind of approach. 

I hope this new discovery  and topic could endorse me with better passion to write in English, and express myself clearly. After all, language skill has been an important parameter to judge one's level of education, cognitive ability and capability of complex work. 

This will be the focus of my 2012. English writing! 
-----------------------------------Here is the Topics I will write about-----------------------------------  
Strategies for Writing the Papers in Assignment 1

This first assignment is a series of four exercises that ask you to analyze one or more musical passages for both aural features and cultural significance. The four short papers are short, focused exercises on specific types of writing about music, such as text-music relations, form and musical meaning. You will need to analyze a discrete section of music (either assigned or one you select), understand how the music works, and describe briefly your (or some other/histor- ical listener’s) experience of the music. The goal in these short papers is to practice various types of music writing, and you should be careful that you do not try to take on every potential subtopic or tangent that might present itself. You do have only 250-500 words.

The four topics build on each other in the skills they are meant to develop. While the specific topics may change or be adjusted during the semester, the goals of each are as follows:

Paper One: In the song “The people that walked in darkness” from Handel’s Messiah, how does the music relate to the words? How is the music independent of the words? You should concentrate on just this one piece, providing a close reading of it and proffering one clear idea. Paper One is an important diagnostic tool for your instructor. It also allows you to examine the relationship between music and text, which is an important theme in this course.

Paper Two: Give an opinion, from the point of view of an imaginary listener in 1824, on the novelties of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and their effectiveness. Paper Two builds on Paper One in that it continues the examination of the relationship between music and text. Here, however, you will expand your focus to consider other primary and sec- ondary sources, particularly those about what musical traditions people in 1824 were used to hearing. Your close reading of passages from the Ninth should be in the service of some larger aspect of the structure of the music, text, or form.

Paper Three: Describe the musical structure of the second movement of Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique (use one or more diagrams if you wish). Within this broader expanse of time there are more musical aspects to discuss, and you will need to choose what to include. Here we move away from the idea of text but continue still with the idea of larger structure.

Paper Four: Describe the various musical elements in the passage of Le sacre du printemps from Rehearsal Number 86 (fourth measure of page 76) to Rehearsal Number 89. Describe the various musical elements and show how they interact. Feel free to use diagrams and charts if you wish. This exercise will allow you to give careful detailed atten- tion to a complex musical passage. It should make you proud of what you’ve achieved in your listening and writing skills, and prepare you for the final paper in which similar careful listening and description will be an important part.

To write your papers, you’ll need to...

Define your interest.What interests you most in the assigned or selected passage? Is there a surprise, a prob- lem, a curious repetition, a particularly effective (or seemingly unsatisfying) technique or idea? Locating something that interests you but that you can’t explain simply is the first step toward a thesis or overarching idea.

Analyze the music. What specific features of the music account for the interest you’ve defined for yourself ? How do melody, harmony, texture, rhythm, dynamics—and other elements—combine to achieve the effect that most interests you? Gathering these details is the first step toward developing convincing evidence for your thesis
or idea.

Contextualize the music, where appropriate. What relationship do you posit between your inter- pretation of the music and the interpretation of the audience at the premiere? How does your claim about the music connect (or contrast) with the ideas of its first audience?

The best papers will propose a thesis or, in the case of these smaller papers, an overarching idea about the music that is true but arguable (it is not self-evidently true; it must be proven), address the likely counter-arguments, show how the musical evidence supports the essay’s claims, use appropriate technical and metaphorical language, and cite sources correctly. The best papers will also substantiate their claims about how the interpretations of the first audience differ from yours (or interestingly dovetail with them) by referring specifically to documents in the sourcepack or textbook.

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